The Art of Eating While Breastfeeding
By Megan Drake
I made the decision to start breastfeeding when my son was born, I had heard stories about how challenging it was, but I was determined to give it my best effort. There are so many benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby including passing antibodies to your baby, promoting healthy weight gain in babies and decreasing risk of childhood obesity, helping mom burn fat, and reduce the risk of diseases in mom, such as diabetes.
In addition to giving my son the best nutrition, I wanted to feel healthy myself and after gaining 50 pounds while pregnant I had quite a bit of fat to lose as well, and wanted to take advantage of breastfeeding for the fat burning benefit. Before I had my son I was a macro counter, but while taking care of an infant, measuring all my food was the last thing on my mind, in addition to that I didn’t want to cut calories to the point where my milk production was affected. That is why I turned to intuitive eating.
After 6 weeks, I am down 30 pounds with 20 more to go! Intuitive eating is simple: you eat when you are hungry and try to avoid getting to the point of extreme hunger because this is when we tend to overeat. For intuitive eating to work you have to make smart food choices, lean meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, and minimal processed foods/ sugars. When I began my breastfeeding journey I was starving constantly, what really helped control my hunger was having snacks that were high in protein throughout the day, hard boiled eggs became my best friend. What worked best for me, which may differ for you was to eat a small snack after each feeding session, in addition to my 3 larger meals per day.
There are many things I wished I had known going into breastfeeding that would have made the first two weeks at home a little easier. The first thing I learned when starting to research breastfeeding and nutrition was that as nutrient dense as breast milk is, it does not include vitamin D which your baby will need to develop strong bones. The easiest fix for this is to get vitamin D drops to give your baby. Another thing I did not realize was how many of my favorite foods caused my son to be gassy.
I remember 5 days after having my son telling my doctor he was inconsolable, the first question she asked was if I was eating chocolate, garlic, or onions, and I was eating all three. Those foods can transfer into your breast milk and cause your baby to be gassy. I also learned that coniferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, as well as dairy did not agree with my son. It was amazing how when I changed my diet how much more calm and happy my son was, he was eating better and sleeping better.
My suggestion to you on your breastfeeding journey is to keep a food journal and notice when your baby is fussy and look back on what foods you ate 4-6 hour prior, and adjust your diet going forward and see if there is a difference. One of the biggest challenges I faced and many women face is not making enough breast milk. There are many cookies and brownies marketed that can help you increase your supply but personally they were very expensive and high in sugar. One thing I drank twice a day was Mother’s Milk tea with fenugreek and fennel, both help with milk production. Oatmeal is another food that helps, my go to breakfast has been overnight oats, it is easy and fast, while helping your milk production.
Hydration is also key in keeping up a good supply, breast milk is 80% water, so if you are not drinking enough you simply will not have enough to make breast milk. Now personally I have been doing all of these things, and for some reason one breast produces plenty and the other barely anything, so there are some times in the day where I have to supplement a few ounces with formula. If this happens to you do not be discouraged or quit, some breast milk is better than none. Everyone’s journey is different, and the end goal is to have a healthy and happy baby, do what is best for your baby.